We’ve talked about the Charlotte Hornets schedule a few times in this space already, and we’re going to do it one more time now that we’ve hit the turning point. The Hornets just wrapped up their longest road trip of the season, a six game gauntlet meandering through the valleys and mountains of the Western Conference. They capped it off with a win in Denver over the reigning MVP and the Denver Nuggets. They got to ride those good times all the way home and are now in the middle of three days of rest in Charlotte. The respite must be nice.
The Hornets sit 17-17 at this juncture. On the surface, that doesn’t inspire much reaction. It’s literally as mediocre as it gets. But the Hornets have done very well to get there. The Hornets have played 34 games now. Despite being at the tail end of a period where they only played one game in six days, there is still only one team in the NBA that has played more games—the Milwaukee Bucks. 22 of those 34 games have been away from the friendly confines of Spectrum Center. No other team in the league has played more than 20 road games. 12 of those 22 road games have been against the Western Conference, where the Hornets have struggled historically. On the other side of that, no team has played as few home games as the Hornets.
With all that out of the way, the Hornets are positioned to make a post-Christmas run. They only have three road games left against the Western Conference. Those games are at the Timberwolves, Thunder, and Pelicans. None of those are west of the central time zone and none of those are particularly good basketball teams. The Hornets last 48 games favor a 29-19 home-road split and there will be plenty of days of rest scattered throughout.
It’s not only the travel schedule that favors the Hornets going forward. They face the fourth easiest schedule the rest of the way based on current win percentages. They have 11 games left against the bottom five teams in the league.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) was developed by the network to measure team strength. It is meant to be a predictor of success for the rest of the season. The Hornets rank ninth in that metric, which suggests that they’re due for improvement in the wins and losses columns.
The Hornets withstood a covid outbreak while dealing with arguably the toughest logistical schedule in the league through Christmas. Despite the uphill battle, they’ve come out the other side right at .500 and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The same level of play with the favorable schedule should see them ascend the standings and lock in a playoff spot by the time spring rolls around.